Seeing David Pearson on the site over the past weeks has brought back so many wonderful memories of our time together.
His attention to detail and level of understanding of the mechanics of the swing and movement are so all encompassing, he can spot the minutest detail that will ultimately allow you to progress as a player.
I want to share my first meeting with David and some of the things I learnt from him in the first year of working with him.
I met David Pearson when I was 17 years old and after a disastrous World Junior Championships.
My goal was to play semi-professionally for a year before going to university but I really hoped my standard would be such at the end of that time I could continue on to being a full time touring professional.
Playing and training up in Aberdeenshire, my long-time supporter and mentor Dr Eric Farr along with my father reached out to David Pearson to see if he would be interested in a 3 match challenge series and daily coaching sessions with this young kid Peter Nicol.
At the time David was a strong England team player coming to the end of his career but was also a highly regarded coach as well having worked extensively with Simon Parke on his way to becoming World Junior Champion.
David has told me on several occasions he was going to say he could not make it but Dr Eric Farr was so passionate and convinced David he needed to see me and help fulfil my potential, so he finally relented.
Playing against David in those three matches gave me a glimpse into what could be possible on the squash court. Having then worked with David for two decades, I now realize I was working with him while he was formulating and defining his coaching style and techniques.
Not that it ever stays the same but in essence, David has the same basic theories and ideas as he had two decades ago, just with many, many more layers of knowledge and experience.
We sat down at my family’s kitchen table after the last match and David explained to my parents that the only way I could achieve anything in squash was to move to England and train and play with strong players day in and day out.
My parents who were not financially able to afford much extra spend agreed there and then that they would do whatever it takes to help me reach my potential and the decision was made.
Moving in with David and his family in Leeds, Yorkshire, I would travel every day to the squash club at Harrogate to receive lessons and train every day.
I was in for a shock as I had been the best player in my area since I was 14 and David would play and beat me relentlessly. He would also enjoy embarrassing me with his deceptive play whilst also forcing me into making the necessary changes to improve.
There were three main areas that David completely changed in the first year:
The Grip – I had to learn to hold the racquet correctly.
I had to disregard the hammer hold of the racquet that was my normal grip and learn to fan out my fingers and use the thumb and forefinger to guide the racquet. This resulted in many racquets being launched into the front wall, not out of frustration, but because my grip was now so much lighter I sometimes could not control the racquet!
Backhand technique – David started immediately working on completely overhauling my backhand swing.
I would swing close and low, meaning my weight was always falling backwards and being a left-handed player, this was causing so many problems when right-handers would attack my backhand. Lifting the racquet head up and pushing it away from my body in my backswing was what I practised, mostly in solo drill, for most of that year. By the end, it was by no means the finished product but I was now solid technically and could start to adapt from there.
Movement – I thought of myself as a good mover but David got me to think about movement being part of the swing and start to think about dancing and flowing around the court.
I would spend hours falling backwards from the T, moving into the back corners trying not to use any power to get there and then using the swing and follow through to take me back to the T, again using as little strength as possible. All the aspects of movement I think about now as a teacher – balance, momentum, recoil – were all introduced to me then by David.
I’ve loved seeing David on screen explain his principles; not only are they wonderfully relayed by an expert technician, but it also takes me right back to when I was 17 and working with David on all those areas.
I am forever grateful for his guidance and taking the chance on a 17-year old kid!
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